Elia Viviani won the Tour of Beijing's Great Wall stage to Shunyi on Saturday. The Italian sprinted ahead of Liquigas team-mate Peter Sagan after 189.5 kilometres of racing, skirting along one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
"The countryside was incredible," Viviani said, "but Liquigas focused on the sprint."
The stage started in Yanqing and was dominated by a six-man escape, including Damiano Cunego (Lampre). The escape, though, was no match for HTC-Highroad, Garmin and Sky. HTC worked to protect Tony Martin's overall lead, while other teams wanted to help their sprinters.
Sky's Steve Cummings led into the final kilometres for Davide Appollonio. Onto the final straight, they encountered a headwind and were swamped by Liquigas.
"I couldn't find the right position," Appollonio explained. "Sky worked well for me all day, but maybe it was better for us to stay behind and hit out in the last 500 metres."
"We tried to be at the front for the last corner, thinking it'd be a cross-wind," explained Cummings. "If the wind would have been the other way, it would have been perfect."
Viviani had Liquigas-Cannondale team-mates Peter Sagan and Davide Cimolai working for him. Cimolai stayed ahead and Sagan defended behind Viviani. Sagan finished the job so well that he was able to place second and high five Viviani after the line.
"Maybe Sky did too much too soon or Appollonio made a mistake," said Viviani. "He's good, though, you saw him sprint against Cavendish in the Giro d'Italia."
Viviani is one of Italy's most promising sprinters and worked at the World Championships this year for Daniele Bennati. With his first WorldTour win today and numerous others throughout this year, he may lead Italy at the London Olympics.
He said that he will ride on the track and hopes to have his chance in the road race against Mark Cavendish.
"I hope to lead the team next year," he explained. "Can I beat Cavendish? If I am captain it would mean that I am in form and there to take a medal, to win."
Viviani will have another chance to win tomorrow on the last stage in Beijing. Martin will simply try to remain in the group and conserve his overall lead, 17 seconds on David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo).
"I didn't think I'd be in the winning position in China, I really just came here to see the country," Martin explained. "We rode next to the Great Wall all day, but I wish I could have seen more of it."
Tour of Beijing 2011, stage four: Yan Qing Gui Chuan Square to Shunyi, 189.5km
1. Elia Viviani (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale in 4-09-08
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale
3. Juan Jose Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank-Sungard
4. Denia Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha
5. Alexander Porsev (Rus) Katusha
6. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) BMC Racing
7. Leigh Howard (Aus) HTC-Highroad
8. Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-ISD
9. Enrique Sanz (Spa) Movistar
10. Hainrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin-Cervelo all same time
Overall classification after stage four
1. Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad in 11-19-27
2. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Cervelo at 17 secs
3. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky at 26 secs
4. Steve Cummings (GBr) Sky at 35 secs
5. Olivier Kaisen (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 39 secs
6. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Rabobank at 41 secs
7. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r at 43 secs
8. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana at 43 secs
9. Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quick Step at 43 secs
10. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick Step at 46 secs
Peloton on stage four
Peloton on stage four
race leader Tony Martin in the red jersey
Stage four scenery
Peter Sagan (right) congratulates stage winner Elia Viviani
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